The Asian Human Rights Commission has received shocking reports of journalists having to face the worst ordeals possible, during the course of the year 2014. Four journalists and five of their supporting staff have been killed by “un-known” persons and more than 38 journalists were attacked and injured by the police and mostly by those representing political parties who are conducting political agitation in the country’s capital Islamabad calling for the government to step down on charges of mass corruption.
Pakistan is ranked 158 out of 180 countries in this year’s World Press Freedom Index and has one of the highest murder rates for journalists. As is evident from this statement there is almost no space for freedom of expression in the country which provides a free playing field for law enforcement authorities and extremist religious forces particularly the militant groups – to act as they please. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has announced the appointment of a Commission for the protection of journalists but it has remained as only an announcement and no further action has been taken in that regard. Still no mechanisms have been developed to stop the attacks on the media houses. The political parties, the pressure groups and religious militant groups in an effort to dictate their policies continuously attack media houses and journalists.
Several media houses including the Pakistan Television (PTV), the official government channel, was attacked by hundreds of political activists, supporters of Imran Khan, a cricketer turned politician and Dr. Tahirul Qadri, a Pakistani born Canadian national. Broadcasts were stopped for 40 minutes following the capture of the station and after hundreds of people, many armed with sticks, ransacked the Pakistan Television building in central Islamabad, smashing vehicles in the parking lots and cutting transmission cables in the newsrooms. The network said that at least 14 cameras had been stolen.
Reports revealed that on the instructions from the Pakistan Army – by a mere gesture of raising a finger – the army abandoned the occupation of PTV building. However, during this period protesters have attacked and injured more than 100 policemen – as police have been given instructions not to use fire arms against the agitators. A senior police officer, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) was beaten in front of PTV building and has been seriously injured. More than 100 persons inside the PTV building were also harassed and beaten and one lady anchor person has been abused by the protesters.
About half a dozen senior journalists have received death threats from “unknown persons”. However, it is generally a known fact that these ‘un-known persons’ are those representing the various state intelligence agencies.
Following is a list of names of injured persons from the different media houses;
Khuram Shazad, Cameraman, Sama TV,
Awais Qazi, Cameraman, Sama TV,
Amir Syed Ababs, Reporter, Sama TV,
Atif Yousef, Cameraman, Waqt TV,
Imran Iqbal, Cameraman waqt TV,
Muhammad Zahid DSNG Engineer, Waqt TV,
Jameel Kayani, Driver, Waqt TV,
Essa Naqvi, Reporter, Duniya TV,
Hassan Ayub, Reporter, Dunya TV,
Dan, Engineer, Dunya TV,
Anjum Fatimi, Cameraman, Dunya TV,
Asif Abduulah, Cameraman, Ary News,
Iqbal zeb,cameraman, Ary News,
Kashif Abbasi, Cameraman, Dawn News,
Noshad Abbasi, Cameraman, Dawn News,
Kashif Malik, Reporter, Dawn News,
Samar Ababs, Reporter, Dawn News,
Ishfaq Hussan, Cameraman, Dawn News,
Imran Chudry, Cameraman, Dawn News,
Mansoor Ahmed, Cameramen, Dawn News,
Amir Alam, Cameraman, Eexpress News,
Majid Shah, Cameraman, Express News,
Usman Afzal, Cameraman, Express News,
Bakhat Zameen, Driver, Express News,
Rana Tariq, Reporter, Aaj Tv,
Haroon Khurshid, Cameraman, Aaj Tv,
Ghulam Ali, Cameraman, Aaj Tv,
Azad Syed, Star Reporter, Geo Tv,
Arshad Syed, Senior Reporter,
Farhat Jabeen, Senior Reporter,
Saif-ur-Rehman, Journalist, Geo Tv,
Shabir Ahmed, Cameraman, Geo Tv,
Khuram Shahzad, Cameraman, Geo Tv,
Ihsan Ali, Bureau Chief, Mashiq,
Arshad Waheed, Senior Reporter
Ajab Khan, Cameraman Sama Tv,
Ghulam Shahzad, Cameraman Geo Tv,
Essa Ali, Bureau Chief Mashriq
Received threats from ‘unknown persons’
Kamran Shafi, Senior journalists
Ahmed Noorani, The News Reporter,
Ajab Khan, Cameraman Sama Tv.
Omar Quereshi, editor Express tribune and contributor to DW
Four Journalists and five supportive staff killed
In another recent event, on 28th August 2014, the office of the Online International News Network in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan Province, was attacked by “unknown persons” who had shot dead three persons including a prominent journalist, Irshad Mastoi, a trainee journalist, Ghulam Rasool and an accountant. No one has been arrested for the shooting. Since the year 2001, when military operations started in the different parts of Balochistan, to-date 40 journalists have been killed by “un-known persons” and not a single attacker has ever been tried before a court of law.
The phenomena of “unknown persons” has been introduced by the successive military governments which gives impunity to these ‘killers’ and it has been a common occurence, following the incident of 9/11 when the military government of General Pervez Musharraf received support from the international community on the “war against terrorism”. Since then, journalists have always been at the receiving end of attacks from these “un-known persons”. Moreover, journalists have increasingly been involved in several incidents of forced disappearances and extra judicial killings including target killings and “un-known persons” have been attributed in all such acts.
On 14th February2014, a correspondent for the ‘Daily Intekhab’ was attacked and killed in Khuzdar, in Balochistan by “un-known persons”. Prior to his killing, he has been receiving death threats from such persons for reporting on disappearances and extra judicial killings.
On 1st January 2014, a reporter for “Abb Tak Television” was shot dead; shot in the back, while filming outside a pharmacy near the Badah Press Club in Larkana, in the Sindh Province. The army claimed that the video which he was recording at the time showed medication Dahar bought at a pharmacy which had a “not for resale” stamp on it – and the journalist was killed a few minutes after.
On 17th January 2014, in the North Nazimabad area in Karachi, the capital of Sindh Province, the vehicle – a van belonging to Express TV was attacked in the early hours by “un-known persons” killing three supporting staff working for the TV channel. They were Waqas Aziz Khan, Mohammad Khalid, and Ashraf Arain. The cameraman was sleeping at the rear seat of the van and thus escaped unhurt. The Express TV was also targeted by Taliban and other militant groups for criticizing the resurgence of Islamic militancy.
In yet another incident, Geo TV, one of the biggest channels in Pakistan, is continuously under pressure from the ISI – the infamous army intelligence agency for the past four months for naming the involvement of the ISI in the attempted murder of a prominent anchorperson, Mr. Hamid Mir, who received six bullet shots by “un-known” persons while he was travelling in his car.
Since January 2013 to date 19 journalists and 10 supporting staff have been killed and no person has been arrested for these killings. The tribal area of Khyber Pakhtunkha (KP) Province and Balochistan remained the ‘killing fields’ where most journalists have been attacked and killed.
Attacks and death threats to journalists
Raza Rumi, the anchorperson of Express TV was attacked by “un-known persons” on March 28th 2014, in the city of Lahore, the capital of Punjab Province. He received minor injury but his driver was killed. Rumi was receiving life threats through unidentified telephone calls. After the attack he has fled the country.
On 19th April 2014, a prominent journalist and an anchorperson for GEO TV was critically wounded by six bullets as explained above. The assailants yet remain unknown. He and his family members accuse the ISI and its chief general Zaheerul Islam of organizing the attempted murder.
TV host Imtiaz Alam has also been receiving death threats. A few months ago TV anchor Jasmin Manzoor reportedly cried in front of the Prime Minister and begged for her life. She was threatened to be killed allegedly by a political party, the MQM and then she had to flee the country.
On 22nd August 2014, a prominent columnist for various local and international newspapers and a retired army officer, Kamran Shafi received death threats by mail, from a group claiming themselves to be the ‘Khaki power’ (a term is used for army persons) and these threats have continued for several days. In the threatening mails his nick name which was used during his service in the army has been referred to – a nickname, he claims was only privy to him and his army colleagues.
In the first week of September, Omar Quereshi, the editor of editorial page of Express Tribune and contributor to the German broadcasting house, the DW, has received death threat messages in his private email account.
On 2nd May 2014, GEO TV’s news cameraman Asif Kabir was travelling to the channel’s office in Model Town A, Bahawalpur, Punjab, when three motorcyclists wearing helmets had stopped him. The three men had called him a traitor and an Indian agent and then had assaulted him in broad daylight. The assault left him badly injured and reports stated that the persons had also attempted to steal his camera. As of this date neither case nor investigation has commenced by the police into this incident.
These reports were extracted from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters without Borders and various other media houses in Pakistan;
Jamshed Baghwan, Express News TV’s Bureau Chief in Peshawar experienced a gruesome third attempt on his life by unknown persons. Unknown persons have set up an explosive device outside his house in Peshawar, capital of KP Province. The devise was left in a milk pack in front of the house by men on a motorcycle. The bomb damaged the outside of the building but caused no injuries. This followed an 11-month long string of attacks on the Express Media group personnel and their installations. Some of these attacks have been claimed by the Taliban.
In another incident, unidentified gunmen torched cable TV operator WorldCall’s premises in the southern city of Karachi on 19th July 2014 in order to silence the embattled TV news station Geo News. WorldCall had only recently resumed transmission of Geo News, which the government suspended for 15 days last month. Police and witnesses said between four – six gunmen stormed into WorldCall’s offices, disarmed security guards, ordered employees to leave and then set fire to the place. The blaze gutted the premises but caused no injuries. It also interrupted transmission of Geo News in several parts of the city.
From 14th August 2014 to date dozens of journalists including females journalist have been attacked and injured by the political workers or activists of Imran Khan and Dr. Tahirul Qadri, who have been agitating against the government outside the Parliament house, the Prime Minister’s house and the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
On 15th August 2014 at least four crew members from Aaj News, including digital satellite news gathering engineer Iqbal, cameramen Usmaan, Iqbal, and Samaarat, were beaten up by workers from the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party while covering a speech by the PTI leader Imran Khan during a sit-in in Islamabad. The four have been treated in hospital for minor injuries.
On 17th August 2014, as many as eight reporters, cameramen and drivers have been assaulted by the workers in two days alone. Azaz Syed, a star reporter of Geo TV, was abused; his mike was snatched and when he was about to go on air from the rally venue in order to report on the situation on ground. Meanwhile, a mob had encircled him and forced him out of the venue. All this for working for GeoTV. Arshad Waheed, a senior reporter of the network, also came under attack the same day.
On the same day, another Geo TV journalist, Saif-ur-Rehman, came under attack by Imran Khan’s party (PTI) activists who identified him by the mike carrying the logo of the network. He had to flee the scene to save his life. Shabbir Ahmed, a cameraman of Geo TV, had his camera broken by the PTI’s miscreants. Another cameraman, Khurram Shehzad, was beaten.
On 30th August 2014, when protesters were marching towards the Parliament house to attack there had been a clash between marchers and the police and during this clash, police have deliberately attacked and severely beaten several journalists.